Women's fitness

Are Body Comparisons Your Doom?

I strongly believe that setting the goal to look like someone else, whether it’s just arms, legs, abs, or another person’s whole body, is a doomed prospect. Everybody is unique, so setting the goal to look like another person is illogical. Life isn’t a Disney movie: you’ll never magically turn into someone else. Here are some examples of why comparing yourself to another makes no sense. Ever get your hair styled like a celebrity? Did you look like the celebrity afterward? I’m 99% sure that you didn’t. Example two: clothing. Take one look at a party of bridesmaids. They are all often wearing the same thing, but, believe me, they all look different because each bridesmaid has her own unique shape.

My Experiences

Even after 13 years of maintaining fitness, I still encounter women who have the nerve to say negative things to me about my body. Meanwhile, I’ve had a fitness modeling contract; I’ve been rewarded by the military for fitness excellence; I’ve appeared in a workout video series; I’m asked by photographers to model regularly; and — most importantly — as a personal trainer, I’ve successfully helped many people reach their fitness goals. The funny part is these women are focused on who looks better than whom, as if this is the caveman era and the prettiest girl in the cave gets the best mate; except in this scenario, in the 21st century, being the best looking no longer matters for survival reasons as it once did. It’s a useless remnant of evolutionary programming that ignores individual achievement and actual value.

I take care of myself for simple reasons. For starters, I’m aware that I’m an actively decomposing, organic being with only one body for my entire life; it’s kind of a no-brainer to take care of my one body. My other motivators are gaining and maintain strength, agility, flexibility, overall fitness, improving mental focus, emotional balance, and being a good role model for my son. I enjoy setting and reaching goals by finding my weaknesses and addressing them and trying new physical challenges. Lastly, I don’t plan on being wheeled around a nursing home and being helped to the bathroom when I’m elderly. That’s a solid motivator.

I don’t dream to look like someone else. My motivations span days, weeks, and decades, and are all personal. That’s what keeps me going to the gym and staying on track with my diet each day. I encourage each of my new clients to think of personal reasons why they should commit to a healthy lifestyle. Outside sources of motivation (hoping people will see you as sexy, striving to be the sexiest woman alive, having an Instagram following) are unreliable because they are too dependent on gaining acceptance from others. Accept yourself and what you have to work with.

Ladies, stop trying to look like someone else!

As a personal trainer who has worked with many women and men, I’ve noticed some differences between the genders. Men don’t compare bodies — at least not as blatantly as women tend to. I never had a male client come to me and say that he wanted to look like some celebrity or famous athlete. Now, I’m aware of the danger of making blanket statements, so the content below is derived purely from my years of experience with clients, which details the typical things men came to me for help with, compared to my female clients.

 

Women Men Trainer’s response
I want my arms to look like [insert celebrity’s or fitness model’s name here] I want more defined arms There is no science or technique that will get you to look like someone else, but in terms of getting more defined, that’s definitely doable. Who knows, in the end, your arms might look better than your favorite celebrity’s or fitness model’s. Don’t underestimate your potential.
I want my butt to look like [insert celebrity’s or fitness model’s name here] I heard strengthening my glutes would protect my back from pain and injury; is that true? There is no science or technique that will get you to look like someone else, but, yes, strengthening your glutes will protect your back. Your glutes are connected to your lower back muscles and strengthening both areas can alleviate and prevent back pain or injury, and the side effect is nice-looking glutes. Who knows, in the end, your glutes might look better than your favorite celebrity’s or fitness model’s.
I want my legs to look like [insert celebrity or fitness model’s name here] I need my legs to be stronger, and I want more mass There is no science or technique that will get you to look like someone else, but progressive overload will help you build mass and get stronger, and the training routine I’ll create for you will improve the overall look of your legs. Who knows, in the end, your legs might look better than your favorite celebrity’s or fitness model’s.
Overall goal: to be sexy Overall goal: to get stronger and have more energy Well, looking sexy is subjective and depends on who’s looking at you and making the judgment. I can definitely get you stronger and fitter, which will give you more energy, through proven training techniques that are backed up by sports science.

 

Legitimate goals have legitimate ways of BEING reached

Ladies, I know the above chart can be interpreted as female-bashing, but it’s all real. I want us to break from the toxic mental programing that causes so many of us to focus on aesthetics and comparing ourselves to others over discovering what we are made of as individuals by setting personal goals. Of all the women I’ve trained, I can’t think of one whose primary goal was to get stronger and have more energy. Their purpose in hiring a trainer was more about pleasing the outside world (people who will see them) than improving themselves on a personal level. Do you know how many times this year I’ve heard women talk about getting butt implants or injections? The answer is almost weekly, and 100% more times than I’ve heard a woman state that she is working out to develop her glutes via strength exercises. The latter has the added benefits of caloric burn, improvement of posture, lower body strength — the side effect is a nice butt.

Compared to my female clients, my male clients had a much higher success rate at meeting their goals and maintaining them. Those are the facts. Not because they are genetically predisposed to be leaner, but I believe it’s because they are much more likely to make their goal personal and to choose a goal that is attainable: strength, energy, and definition over attempting to mimic someone else’s body.

Your frame of mind can affect how you execute reaching your goal(s)

Goal: To look like someone else
Execution Method 1: Researches celebrity workouts in a magazine

Celebrities are not exactly the best symbols of athleticism. Many try to maintain a lean physique because they have to, not because they have a passion for it. They solely require the “appearance” of fitness, not the reality of it.  Many do whatever it takes to be suitable for a role, be it crash dieting; taking pharmaceutical shortcuts; or embarking on intense, unsustainable workout regimes. Plus, one workout in a magazine is just a snapshot of a whole training regime. A full training and nutrition regime is what gets you the results. Magazines are not a sound resource for fitness information. They are fueled by trends and make most of their money off advertisers. As such, you’re not getting the best fitness advice; you’re getting the latest fitness trends. This is not a logical or legitimate method to reaching a fitness goal.

Execution Method 2: Sees a fit person at a gym and copies their workouts (particularly if the exercises look cool or hardcore)

I just have to crack up when I see this, or when I experience it after other gym members see me doing something that took me sometimes a year of practice to achieve. They fail horribly and give up easily. Why? Because they are not yet conditioned to do it! Practice and dedication = achievement.

Execution Method 3: Signs up for personal training

While a far more intelligent choice than reading a magazine or obsessing over a celebrity’s workouts, clients without solid goals or personal motivation for success often go about personal training instruction half-heartedly. These clients seem to believe they will reach their goal through the process of osmosis, not by listening to their trainer. I’ve worked with these clients . . . many, many times. I write them their routine and nutrition plan, show them the exercises and execution, and every week they come in a perform half-assed. They never learn the exercise and have to be re-shown each, to the point where adding to the routine becomes a challenge to them. Then, the ultimate goal crusher, they don’t follow the nutrition plan. I ask them if they’ve been following the meal plan and they smile and giggle and whine about it being “so hard.” These people spend money on a trainer but have no real intention of following through with the hard work required. They believe in quick fixes and gimmicks, and they believe that there is another gimmick around the corner that will one day rescue them from having to put in the work… a plastic surgeon in Mexico, perhaps.

Goal: Strength & Energy

Execution Method 1: Consults a local athlete and asks to train with him/her

While this isn’t the best way to go about reaching your goal because an athlete will likely be at a completely different stage in his/her training than you. Therefore, you should not mimic exactly what they do, this is still a better strategy than picking up a magazine. This is because you can talk to the athlete about their experiences when they were at the stage you’re at in your level of fitness, and what they did. You’ll also be more likely to see the most effective exercises for a specific body part performed. If this athlete has been trained by a professional coach, then he/she was likely shown the most effective movements to help them in their sport. Again, this is much better than turning to a magazine for advice.

Clothing for athletic men and women.

Execution Method 2: Gets a book recommendation from a local athlete or professional coach

Notice the words “athlete” and “professional coach” in the title . . . not the random girl or guy at the gym who has a hot body? Then these people lead the goal-seeker to a book written by a professional coach who specializes in the goal seeker’s specific goal(s). Wow, ain’t that something. A book versus an ad-filled, eye-catching, photoshopped magazine! Who would’a thought of that? Ever take a college course and have the professor tell you to learn the subject via a magazine? Now, this might sound like a chore to some people, but some of the best fitness books I’ve read have been under 200 pages. If you have taken the magazine route, whether online or a physical magazine, you might have already read over 200 pages worth of sub-par crap. It’s time to get a book.

Execution Method 3: Signs up for personal training

This person views the hiring of a personal trainer as an investment and is determined to get the most out of it. They review the routine and meal plan and adopt the knowledge. They know that changing their diet is hard, but they take it a day at a time. This trainee learns the exercise movements and makes progress more easily because 1.) They follow proper form and their body responds by adapting and getting stronger because of it 2.) Since they learned the exercises, they don’t have to be re-taught each session and therefore, a higher intensity is maintained during the workout, and less time is wasted on instruction 3.) They are focused. This kind of client is my dream client, but they eventually move on and get a handle on things and no longer need me. This is a sad/happy experience when they have reached their goal and go on to continuing on their fitness journey without personal training. People like this, are much more likely to stay fit for life when pointed down the right path.

If your goal is to change your body, be honest with yourself, and define if your goal(s) are personal or external. Are you striving to look like someone else, or to become a better version of yourself? Do you know where to look for good, legitimate information to reach your goal(s)? Do you give up easily or look for quick fixes? Do you really care about your health or solely your appearance? If you really want to change your body and have a healthier lifestyle, make your motivations personal. Be selfish. You’ll feel more secure, you’ll appreciate your progress, however minor it might be in the beginning. When you finally reach your goal(s) through hard work, you’ll have higher self-esteem and the attractiveness of another person’s body will be less likely to spur feelings of competitiveness or insecurity.

As an athlete for over 18 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site.

3 Comments

  • link

    Well I should at least thank you for trying to reason and explaining even further your point when it wasn t even asked, so +1 for that, it s appreciated. I see what you were trying to explain even if it s different from what I would have based my arguments on when it comes to comparisons, but with that in mind it s pointless to argue when we are saying two different things.

  • Christina

    Agreeing with everything you say.

    Having said that, my experience of looking for a personal trainer was that I said I wanted more energy and strength and they said ‘ok but everyone wants to look better so I will put that on the form’!

    To me looking better is about looking healthier, which is about being healthier, isn’t it? So weird what some people think about this.

    I’ve spent enough time in my life thinking I should live up to someone else’s idea of what I should look like. But now I’m so happy to find your blog seeing through all that. Give me a healthy happy body over a starved weak one any day.

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